Wenche Behring Breivik, the late mother of the Norwegian right-wing extremist who attacked Norway’s Labour Party and the government it led on July 22, 2011, didn’t take her story to her grave after all. While she avoided reporters from all over the world who clamoured for an interview, she sat down on several occasions with a former NRK journalist during the year after her son’s massacre and talked for hours on end.
The mother of Anders Behring Breivik died of cancer just 20 months to the day after her son bombed Norway’s government headquarters and then went on a shooting spree at Labour’s summer camp for young political activists. He blamed them and the Labour-led government for allowing too many immigrants into Norway. By the time his rampage ended, 77 persons were dead, hundreds of others wounded and the government complex was all but destroyed.
‘Your son is the terrorist’
Breivik’s divorced mother, meanwhile, was waiting for him to come home, ready to serve warm spaghetti with meat sauce and wondering where he was, according to Marit Christensen, a 64-year-old former foreign correspondent and program host for state broadcaster NRK. Christensen told magazine VG Helg over the weekend that she’s on the verge of publishing a book that will reveal what Wenche Behring Breivik thought about her son’s murder spree, what it was like to be the mother of Norway’s, and perhaps the world’s, worst solo-terrorist, and what kind of person she was.
Her life as she knew it changed forever when police rang her bell on the evening of July 22, 2011, while she was watching the continuous coverage of the attacks like most everyone else, and said “We need to enter your apartment. Your son is the terrorist.” After that, her home was a crime scene, she “fell apart,” Christensen told VG Helg, and she spent the next three months in a psychiatric hospital.
She never appeared publicly, ignored all requests for interviews and little if any information about her or her relation to her son was revealed at Breivik’s lengthy and closely covered trial. Long divorced from her diplomat husband who was Breivik’s father, she had few friends or relatives, said Christensen, who became a friend of sorts during their ensuing conversations. Christensen told VG Helg that Wenche (roughly pronounced “Venk-uh”) Behring Breivik wanted her story to come out and agreed to talk to Christensen after being introduced by a mutual acquaintance.
“She was a handsome woman, stylish, always well-groomed,” Christensen said. “She acted very correctly, meticulously, just like her son.” At the same time, Christensen said Breivik’s mother appeared as a “completely normal woman” who was even cheerful, not plagued by what her son had done, “and here lies some of the puzzle that I’ll address in the book.”
Christensen doesn’t think she or anyone can relate to what he did, not least his mother, and that Wenche Behring Breivik’s biggest problem “was that she never had the ability to accept, or had realized, that either she herself or those closest to her had problems and should have gotten help to deal with them.” Christensen believes Breivik’s mother “was taught to hide problems,” not address them.
Christensen’s book on Breivik’s mother is due out this autumn. She said Breivik wanted her to focus on unfairness in media coverage and how persons thrust into the media spotlight get no peace. Christensen told VG Helg she’ll also write about Anders Behring Breivik’s childhood and his mother’s own version of her life and his.
Asked whether Wenche Behring Breivik reconciled with her son before her death, or forgave him, Christensen said “Your child is your child, regardless.” Did she still love him? “Of course she did. Her child was a part of herself.”
Ragnhild Torgersen, who served as Wenche Behring Breivik’s attorney after her son’s attacks, had no comment on the upcoming book. Christensen said she had no idea what Breivik’s other family members thought about the book project. Asked whether Wenche Behring Breivik blamed herself for what her son had done, Christensen said “No, never.” Asked whether she blamed others, Christensen said “yes,” without further elaboration for now.